Watch out Eastern League Hitters: The Rock Cats boast one of the best all around pitching staffs in the Eastern League, so the opposing hitters better be aware. Glen Perkins, who is the ace of the staff, is one of the best left-handed pitchers in Minor League Baseball, and should handcuff batters in his second go-round in Double-A. Add to that a starting rotation that includes Nick Blackburn, Adam Harben, Errol Simonitsch, and Justin Jones, and you have one of the better five-man rotations in the Eastern League.
Harben was one of the best pitcher in the Florida State League in 2005, and Errol Simonitsch has sick stuff, as Denard Span told TwinCitiesDugout last summer. The book is still out on Justin Jones, but he appears to be the real deal. Overall, when attending a Rock Cats game this summer, look for a lot of strikeouts, and some quick games.
Starters: Glen Perkins, Nick Blackburn, Errol Simonitsch, Adam Harben, Justin Jones. Relief Pitchers: Colby Miller, Levale Speigner, Robert Korecky, Tristan Crawford, Jay Sawatski, Chris Schutt. Closer: Justin Olson.
DH- Tommy Watkins, C- Jose Morales, 1B- Danny Matienzo, 2B- Felix Molina, 3B- Matthew Moses, SS- J.R. Taylor, OF- Douglas Deeds, Denard Span, Scott Whitrock. Bench- Steve Lomasney, Gilbert Valezquez, Matt Tolbert, Trent Oeltjen, Jason Grove.
Reloaded Power: The Rock Cats’ roster will again feature two of the best run producers that the Eastern League saw in 2005, as Doug Deeds and Danny Matienzo return to the Cats’ lineup. These two players were some of the better batters in the Eastern League, as both of them made the mid-season All-Star team. Matienzo is your typical middle of the lineup hitter, and most believed he was slated for triple-A this season. Deeds blasted a home run in his first at-bat in Major League camp this past spring, and is most likely the most underrated player in the entire Twins organization. Both should provide pop in the middle of the Cats order, and with Span and Moses with them, should make for an interesting season in Connecticut.
Big Bat: Matienzo is an absolute terror at the plate, and this season should post even better numbers. He was one of the more feared hitters in the entire Eastern League last season, and for him to be back in Double-A is a shock to most experts. A big bat from the right side, Matienzo should be in Triple-A before the season is out, and is one of the more exciting bats in the Twins’ organization. If he stays in the Eastern League, look for him to be at the top of the leader board in all power statistics, as he once again shows that he is a legitimate power hitting prospect.
Ace of the Staff: Glen Perkins was one of the best pitchers in the prestigious Arizona Fall League in 2005, after rising from the Florida State League to the Eastern League last season. He is a great pitching prospect, who many consider to be the best left-handed arm in the Twins’ farm system. The Rock Cats’ starting rotation is loaded with talent, and Perkins should use his experience to be one of the better arms in Minor League Baseball in 2006. There is not much left he has to accomplish at this level, and he should make his Triple-A debut at some point during the 2006 season.
Opening Up: Most people, myself included, expected the Rock Cats to get off to a better start than they have so far this season, but it is only a matter of time before they start dominating the Eastern League. Their lineup is stacked with talent, including Denard Span and Matt Moses, who some believe are the two best position prospects in the organization. Once they gel, they should be a force to reckon with in the Eastern League, and New Britain fans will be given something to cheer about all season long. Waiting in the wings are some of the best pitching talent in the Minor League, with the Fort Myers staff apparently ready for Double-A. Look for the Rock Cats to make the playoffs this season, and make a serious run at the Eastern League title.